Round 5 comes equipped with a Charity Shield flavour this Friday night as the Dragons take on the Rabbitohs at Jubilee Oval.
The Dragons are flying high atop the Premiership table, and while many are quick to note that the Dragons often start their seasons well before falling in a heap (the last time they won a Finals match was the 2010 Grand Final), there is a different feeling to the 2018 version of the Red V, with Ben Hunt and James Graham adding skill, starch and experience to a club sorely lacking it in key moments throughout the best part of the last decade. Aside from a lacklustre first half against the Sharks in Round 2, the Dragons have played remarkably consistent football and start the season with a perfect 4 wins from 4 matches.
The Rabbitohs have had patches of football where they’ve looked like world-beaters, but haven’t found the consistency required to push the best teams thus far. Greg Inglis is slowly improving after returning from injury and they’ve managed 2 wins on the trot without their chief playmaker Adam Reynolds, so it’s fair to say the Rabbitohs have a lot of improvement in them. They’d better improve quickly if they want to tame the high-flying Dragons on Friday night, particularly with the news that Sam Burgess has been suspended for 2 matches after his appeal of a Grade One Dangerous Contact charge was unsuccessful.
04.08.2017 – Rabbitohs won 26-24
19.05.2016 – Rabbitohs won 34-24
20.03.2016 – Dragons won 8-6
18.07.2015 – Rabbitohs won 24-8
11.05.2015 – Rabbitohs won 16-10
In positive news for the boys from Redfern, the Rabbitohs have held a significant advantage over the Dragons in recent NRL clashes, winning 5 of their last 6 clashes.
|St George Illawarra Dragons||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|1||Matt Dufty||Alex Johnston|
|2||Nene Macdonald||Dane Gagai|
|3||Euan Aitken||Greg Inglis|
|4||Tim Lafai||Hymel Hunt|
|5||Jason Nightingale||Robert Jennings|
|6||Gareth Widdop||Cody Walker|
|7||Ben Hunt||Adam Reynolds|
|8||James Graham||Tom Burgess|
|9||Cameron McInnes||Damien Cook|
|10||Paul Vaughan||To Be Confirmed....|
|11||Tyson Frizell||John Sutton|
|12||Tariq Sims||Angus Crichton|
|13||Jack De Belin||Cameron Murray|
|14||Luciano Leilua||Adam Doueihi|
|15||Kurt Mann||Mark Nicholls|
|16||Leeson Ah Mau||George Burgess|
|17||Hame Sele||Junior Tatola|
|18||Jeremy Latimore||Robbie Farah|
|19||Zac Lomax||Jason Clark|
|20||Jacob Host||Braidon Burns|
|21||Blake Lawrie||Kyle Turner|
The facts that matter
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have been the consummate professionals in the opening month of the competition and we can expect more of the same from them in this fixture, with their side enjoying a lack of injuries or suspensions so far this season.
Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop have formed a dynamic halves pairing that has made fools of those that scoffed at Hunt’s price tag when he initially signed for the Dragons at the start of 2017 (this writer included).
After an excellent end to his 2017 season, Hunt has continued that form and with James Graham added to a forward pack already boasting impressive names like Vaughan, De Belin, Frizell and Sims, there are no signs of him, or the Dragons, slowing down.
We expect that Latimore will be promoted to the bench in place of Hame Sele as has been standard for the Dragons in each of their opening matches.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs will be buoyed by the return of Adam Reynolds at halfback, but so impressive was young Adam Doueihi that he is retained on the bench at the time of the naming of the squad. It’ll be interesting to see what coach Anthony Seibold does with Doueihi. Does he come on in the halves to allow Walker a license to roam? Does he take minutes off Damien Cook at dummy half? Is he an insurance policy if Reynolds is re-injured during the match? Will he come on in the forwards to inject creativity into the side? We must wait and see.
Sam Burgess was named at prop but, as we mentioned earlier, he’ll be missing for 2 weeks. The word is that George Burgess will be promoted to the starting side with Jason Clark expected to come onto the bench. Sam Burgess will be a significant loss for the Rabbitohs, not just for his work-rate, but also because he is the leader of the forward pack and the man the Rabbitohs turn to when the going gets tough.
This writer will (unhappily) admit that tipping has not been his forte this season so feel free to ignore my tip that the Dragons will be too strong for the Rabbitohs sans Burgess. Heck, you may as well throw $5** on the Rabbitohs by 20 the way the season has gone to this point!
** so long as you gamble responsibly!
Will it be another win for the Red V or could the Bunnies pull off an upset? Let us know in the comments and poll below.